A passing thought on the potential of digital media

Non-violence Sculpture. (Jorbasa/Flickr)

Found an interesting passage on Iran in Philip Howard’The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam (2010):

“But if the usual ratio of active blogs to registered blogs holds, there are still upwards of 100,000 active sites in the Persian blogosphere. And for several years, the government has been arresting and fining opposition bloggers based within the country. Even the Revolutionary Guard developed a strategy to generate 10,000 blogs, though the Basij militias have not proven up to this particular task. The Bureau for the Development of Religious Web Logs offers blogging workshops to Iran’s clerics. During the protests, even the most apolitical bloggers covered the demonstrations, and traffic at the dominant blogs swelled.”

It’s interesting that in a world where cheap mobile devices and computers are rapidly proliferating, mullahs and jihadists are easily adapting to social networks. Recently, Pakistani militant organisation Lashkar-e-Tayaba’s political arm Jamat ud Dawa launched a Twitter account to propagate their point of view, counter statements made by journalists and media personalities… and tweet poetry.


(A verse dedicated to the Pakistani soliders who lost their lives in an avalanche at Siachen on April 7,2012.)

Although militant organisations have made use of television and radios in the past to deliver threats and/or propaganda, those media do not encourage interaction with the audience as such. Digital technologies are being increasingly used by individual, activists and civil society groups for political expression, to report on human rights abuses and generate peaceful dialogue. With a rise in the number of hardliners turning to social media and Islamic political organisations (such as Hamas) endorsing non-violence, is there hope for a less violent future? In the light of generally non-violent mass uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt last year (and of course without being naive), I wonder if digital media have the potential to aid a general decline in armed resistance and global terrorism.


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